The Role of Migration in the Evolution of Phenotypic Switching

The Role of Migration in the Evolution of Phenotypic Switching

Oana Carja, Robert E Furrow, Marc W Feldman

Stochastic switching is an example of phenotypic bet-hedging, where an individual can switch between different phenotypic states in a fluctuating environment. Although the evolution of stochastic switching has been studied when the environment varies temporally, there has been little theoretical work on the evolution of phenotypic switching under both spatially and temporally fluctuating selection pressures. Here we use a population genetic model to explore the interaction of temporal and spatial variation in the evolutionary dynamics of phenotypic switching. We find that spatial variation in selection is important; when selection pressures are similar across space, migration can decrease the rate of switching, but when selection pressures differ spatially, increasing migration between demes can facilitate the evolution of higher rates of switching. These results may help explain the diverse array of non-genetic contributions to phenotypic variability and phenotypic inheritance observed in both wild and experimental populations.

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